Photo Credit: Universal Music New Zealand Limited
On August 20, 2021. Lorde released her much anticipated third studio album, “Solar Power.” The album follows a four-year hiatus that left fans salivating for new music. The album was announced through her return to social media, where she posted pictures on her previously deactivated instagram account.
The album marks a tonal shift for the New Zealand based singer-songwriter. Previously known for her dark clothing and makeup and being the face of teen angst, this album is much more bright and hazy, featuring gentle vocals and accompanied by music videos with visuals surrounding nature and brighter colors. Even the announcement posts on Instagram featured the sun in the background, revealing that the album was truly living up to its name and being solar. While some believe that this means Lorde is making happier music, that’s not exactly the case. While it may be sonically different, the album still features the melancholic and sometimes self-doubting lyrics from her two previous albums, “Pure Heroine,” and “Melodrama.”
“I love Lorde, and respect her so much. But the song “Solar Power,” wasn’t my favorite, which was disappointing since it was the first song I listened to off the album. I loved the lyrics and the visuals, but the actual noise of the song was not my favorite. The music in the back really threw me off. I still wanted to listen to the rest of the album though, and I really loved the sound of the rest of the songs. It’s a change, but I found it enjoyable,” said Grace Jaye (‘24).
Rather than being happier, the album is truly more mature than her previous music. While some fans, especially younger ones, were turned off from this, wishing for her to go back to singing about the troubles of being a teenager or young adult, I found the new wisdom and themes of her album refreshing and enticing. Parts of it feel like a love letter to the younger versions of Lorde, and as such has some level of being so to all teenage girls. Like an older sister, Lorde offers insight into adult life and teaches us some life lessons – particularly how to lean into nature and gain peace of mind through the world, not fame or other trivial parts of life. The album also still references and grapples with Lorde’s lingering feelings from being a teenager, and from her relationship with fame.
“Solar Power,” is not a perfect album. It feels unpolished at times, and some of the songs feel repetitive or unmemorable. Many have expressed disappointment that it does not live up to 2017’s “Melodrama.” And, no, it doesn’t, but it also doesn’t aim to. It is a body of work completely separate, uninterested in attaining perfection. Like nature itself, its imperfections and rough edges make the album what it is. Undoubtedly a product of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the appreciation of nature that comes from being almost completely alone with it, as well as the introspection that comes from a year inside. Witty, melancholic, and mature “Solar Power” (final wrap up sentence).
Judging them in their entirety, here is my ranking of every song on the standard version of “Solar Power.”
#12 Dominoes (Track 8)
“Dominoes” is the most forgettable track on this album. It’s a nice song, but not the lyrics aren’t particularly enticing and the music itself is a tad boring in comparison to the rest of the songs. An interesting addition to it was the use of background noise, as it was recorded in an open space where protests can be heard in the background, although for what Lorde has not revealed. Yet, this doesn’t add much to the song as it doesn’t have anything to do with its subject, and comes as a little tonedeaf to describe an important protest as the “sound of the summer.” But even that bit of controversy and interest can’t save “Dominoes,” from taking last place.
Favorite Lyric: Just another phase you’re rushing on through / Go all New Age, outrunning your blues
#11 The Man with the Axe (Track 7)
The most obvious love song on the album, “The Man with the Axe,” describes the safe love that came from Lorde’s relationship with her current boyfriend. It paints a picture of someone stable helping her to process all her big emotions and soothe her. The lyricism is beautiful and flowery, but the music itself is slow and drags at times. In comparison to other tracks, the sound makes it a tad boring
Favorite Lyric: I guess I’ll always be this way / swallowed up by the words and halfway to space
#10 Oceanic Feeling (Track 12)
“Oceanic Feeling,” is a longer track, pondering on life, the past, present, and future. It also looks closely at her relationships with family members, and what her future relationships with her child may be like. It’s a solid closer, but sonically a bit repetitive, especially because of its placement at the end of the album. Once again, the lyrics shine but the sound itself brings it down. Still a good song, but could be better and is outshined by others on the album. It also feels unpolished and very train of thought like – it works well within the context of the album, but when removed isn’t something that I would play on its own.
Favorite Lyric: Now the cherry-black lipstick’s gathering dust in a drawer / I don’t need her anymore / cause I got this power
#9 Leader of a New Regime (Track 10)
“Leader of New Regime,” takes place in a hypothetical future where the environment has become unlivable. The concept itself is incredibly interesting, and the track itself definitely matches the message. The sound is very apocalyptic and reminds me of her tracks from “The Hunger Games’” soundtrack. However, I think other tracks on the album capture this feeling and sound in a better, more intriguing way.
Favorite Lyric: Lust and paranoia reign supreme / We need the leader of a new regime
Solar Power feels like an honest satire of a teenager’s diary from 15 years ago. It feels like 2003 and the near-post-apocalyptic future all at once. My faves are Secrets, Dominoes, Big Star, + Leader of a New Regime, but Mood Ring remains the biggest bop. Gotta love Lorde.
— Ryan Simpkins (@ryan_the_ryan) August 20, 2021
#8 Solar Power (Track 2)
A love letter to nature that perfectly captures the appreciation of the Earth, “Solar Power,” almost serves as the album’s thesis, inviting listeners to join her in the simplicity of nature. The highlight of the song is glorious harmonies of the outro, featuring the vocals of indie giants Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers, tying the song together, making it feel serene and overwhelming at the same time. While it’s not the best song on the album, it captures its vibe and served as the perfect comeback single to introduce this new era.
“I have already listened to some of Lorde’s more popular songs, but I don’t listen to her often. However, I really liked her new single Solar Power even though I’m not normally a big fan. I think her new vibe is really interesting,” said Sara O’Connor(‘23).
Favorite Lyric: Come on and let the bliss begin / Blink three times when you feel it kicking in
#7 The Path (Track 1)
The introductory song, “The Path,” is a great welcome to the album, and where Lorde explains its purpose. It is not meant to save anyone, and points out that she and other celebrities are not our guiding lights and cannot show us the path. Rather we must look to the sun and nature for peace of mind, tangible and accessible things that will actually help us – the point made throughout the entire album. It’s a great introduction track
Favorite Lyric: Fork in my purse to take home to my mother / Supermodels all dancing ‘round a Pharaoh’s tomb
#6 Big Star (Track 9)
“Big Star,” is a song dedicated to Lorde’s dog, Pearl, who recently passed away. This certainly influenced Lorde, who created a song that is a beautiful description of a devotional love. In the song booklet, Lorde herself even said that she had never loved anyone as much as she loved Pearl. This was perfectly captured through the song’s simple yet profound lyricism.
Favorite Lyric: But every perfect summer’s gotta say goodnight / Now I watch you run through the amber light
#5 California (Track 3)
Containing the most references to Lorde’s real life, “California,” explores the singer’s push and pull relationship with fame. She misses it, but doesn’t at the same time. The song’s storytelling is brilliant, comparing fame, or California love, to the likes of an ex-lover. The sound itself also measures up, elevating the lyrics to make a song full of vivid imagery.
Favorite Lyric: And I’d pay it all again to have your golden body back in my bed / But I don’t miss the poison arrows aimed directly at my head
#4 Stoned at the Nail Salon (Track 4)
The second single captures the other side of the album – the introspective side, forced to confront the fact that she has grown up. It speaks to the fleetingness of youth, and encourages people to enjoy its beauty for the limited amount of time we have with it. This song is amazing in the way it captures the feeling of looking inside yourself and looking back at your life, while also wondering if you’re maybe just thinking about it a little too hard. The lyrics and music blend to capture this vibe, making a really really good song.
Favorite Lyric: Cause all the music you loved at 16 you’ll grow out of / And all the times they will change, it’ll all come around
#3 Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All) (Track 6)
“Secrets from a Girl,” feels like it’s coming from a big sister, giving advice to young girls going through big emotions they feel they will never be able to work out. But it’s also advice to her own younger self. The song is riddled with references to her past work, including the imaginary party that Melodrama surrounded and told the story of. The lights are back on, Lorde’s gone home and she’s also grown up. With it, she’s realized that it’s up to her to make her life the best it can be. It also has a really unique aspect at the end, where singer Robyn gives a spoken outro as a surreal flight attendant. It ties the song together, as Robyn has served as a mentor to Lorde, so it feels like it’s coming full circle.
Favorite Lyric: Growing up a little at a time, then all at once / Everybody wants the best for you / But you’ve gotta want it for yourself, my love
every song on solar power gets better with every listen but this one is too good like everything about it I love it pic.twitter.com/w8AmArzs9l
— zozo🧣 (@zoenchanted) August 25, 2021
#2 Mood Ring (Track 11)
“Mood Ring,” is a satirical commentary on how people, especially rich white people, try to find meaning and peace in the world through spirituality and other practices taken from Eastern cultures, while not fully understanding them or respecting them. Rather, for them it’s a trendy form of escapism. While some have doubted how well Lorde was able to satirize and comment on the concept, this song really does measure up, as she’s in the position where she knows many of these people intimately, and had the potential to be that kind of person herself as a wealthy white woman trying to find meaning in the world. She compares their treatment of these spiritual practices to a mood ring, a cheap toy or tool that they can use to stave off boredom, rather than doing any kind of actual introspection. The song’s lyrics are witty and sharp. Combined with fun, whimsical sound, it forms what is the most upbeat and fun song on the album.
Favorite Lyric: Ladies begin your sun salutations / transcendental in your meditations
#1 Fallen Fruit (Track 5)
“Fallen Fruit,” is an absolutely beautiful song. The folksy tune is the most sonically unique on the album – almost haunting, it lands somewhere between a hymn and an old folk song. The tone fits the song’s message, which is about climate change and the poor effect of previous generations on the environment, leaving us with something we know we are going to lose. The haunting sound suits the song, making it feel like one of longing and sadness. A standout because it’s so unique and feels the most innovative on the album, Lorde has found her stride here.
Favorite Lyric: But how can I love what I know I am gonna lose? / Please don’t make me choose
“I really enjoyed the album as a whole, even though I wasn’t necessarily expecting to. It had some really pretty harmonies and a cool sound. It almost reminded me of ‘70s funk rock, but with more trippy harmonies,” said Catalina Salgado (‘24).